On a Star search

ROBIN BROWNLEE, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 1:05 PM ET

DALLAS -- Forgive Dallas Stars coach Dave Tippett for neglecting to send Craig MacTavish a bouquet of roses in condolence for the loss of Ethan Moreau, Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth to injuries.

Tippett, like his counterpart with the Edmonton Oilers, has been so busy trying to patch together a lineup and scratch out a game plan, suffice to say he's been pre-occupied.

MODANO, MORROW OUT

When the Stars faced the Oilers last night, they did so without regulars Mike Modano, Brenden Morrow, Eric Lindros, Antti Miettinen and Steve Ott, all out with injuries, and with a roster loaded with AHL call-ups.

Call it the misery loves company match-up.

"We're very similar," Tippett said. "You're putting young players in to fill the gaps and you're expecting them to play well and give you some energy. But your best players still have to be your catalysts."

Like MacTavish and the Oilers, Tippett and the Stars have had to streamline their game and rely on solid defensive play and goaltending with so many key guys ailing.

"We've been fortunate. (Marty) Turco has been excellent. Our group of defencemen have been very good," Tippett said. "The veteran guys are stabilizing things, but what you've got to do is make sure you play a sound team game."

Modano is day-to-day with a hip-flexor, as is Lindros with a bruised foot and Morrow with a bad groin. That's necessitated using call-ups from Iowa of the AHL such as Chris Conner, Joel Lundqvist and Mathias Tjarnqvist - none of whom will be bumping Modano from the marquee any time soon.

"Just like (the Oilers), you look at the list of names and those are pretty highly skilled guys," said Dallas forward Stu Barnes. "We've got some big names out of the lineup.

"What it's done, and it's a cliche, is it's given other guys opportunities to play and play more in different situations. Guys are playing a very defensively smart game. The emphasis is on that more.

"For us, it's guys like Modano and Morrow. They're the guys who are going to go out and score goals for you. You miss guys like Hemsky and Smyth, guys who can put the puck in the net. You've got to make sure you're focused and you play a smart game."

Despite the hardships, the Stars had a three-game winning streak on the go when the Oilers, winners of two straight, came calling. That was thanks, in large part, to a shutout string of 143 minutes and six seconds by Turco after back-to-back blankings of San Jose and Phoenix.

"The guys have been playing well," Turco said. "You tend to focus more on the structure and team aspects.

"Fortunately, we've got a defensive-minded game, one where everybody is in position and relying on each other to help each other out and back each other up."

STARS IN BETTER SHAPE

Given the nature of the injuries, the Stars are likely to get healthier before the Oilers do - Hemsky and Smyth are two to three weeks away and Moreau is out until March.

"When you've got holes created, especially offensive holes with Modano and Morrow and some of these guys, you've got to make sure there are no weak links," Tippett said. "It's a total team effort and, ultimately, you have to find a way to win."


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